New Delhi: Union Law Ministry’s letter to the Law Commission, asking it to “examine" the implications of implementing the uniform civil code, has set off a controversy with the Congress accusing BJP of “deliberately” raking up the issue with before Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
The move by Centre has come eight months after the Supreme Court asked if it was willing to bring a Uniform Civil Code to ride over inconsistent personal laws in different religions.
This is the first time that the Law Commission, which has a crucial advisory role on legal reform, has been asked by a government to look into uniform civil code, according to a report by The Economic Times.
Former Supreme Court judge A R Lakshmanan, who headed the Law Commission from 2007 to 2009, had submitted two reports in the matter to UPA government in 2008.
The commission urged the government to bring matters relating to marriages and divorces under a uniform law in its 211 and 212th report titled “Laws on Registration of Marriage and Divorce –A Proposal for Consolidation and Reform” and “Laws of Civil Marriages in India – A Proposal to Resolve Certain Conflicts” respectively.
The commission had taken up the subject suo motu in the light of directions of the Supreme Court in 2006 that all marriages shall be compulsorily registered.
After the latest etep by the NDA government, Justice Lakshmanan said he regretted that the UPA “did nothing” even after accepting his reports.
“Everything was put in cold storage by the previous government. They did nothing about it. I am disappointed that no effort was made to examine the feasibility of the Uniform Civil Code,” Justice Lakshmanan told The Indian Express.
Justice Lakshmanan added that his reports were elaborate and pointed specifically towards the need to have a common code in the larger public interest but the government simply sat over it.
“It is good if the present government wants to do something about it. The incumbent Chairperson of the Law Commission would do good if he refers to all the previous reports on the issue and also the Supreme Court judgments on it,” he said.
A uniform civil code will set common personal laws for all citizens, irrespective of the religion, setting aside the current form of different set of personal laws for different communities. There are different personal laws for Hindus and Muslims which cover property, marriage and divorce, inheritance and succession.
The law ministry has written to the Law Commission asking it to "examine the matter in relation to uniform civil code and submit a report". The ministry has also sent documents relating to existing case law and discussions on case law relating to the uniform civil code.
The Law Commission, currently headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan, will submit its report after discussions with experts and stakeholders, the ET report said.
Article 44 of the Directive Principles, enshrined in the Constitution, sets implementation of uniform civil code as the "duty of the State".
In December last year, the Supreme Court had declined to entertain a public interest petition seeking direction to parliament to enact a uniform civil code to put an end to alleged discrimination being faced by Muslim women.
An apex court bench headed by Chief Justice T.S. Thakur said that it is for parliament to take a call on the issue and it was not in the realm of the apex court to issue a direction on this.
Various Muslim bodies and politicians from the community have opposed any move to bring Uniform Civil Code in the country. Whereas, Hindu right wing groups and BJP have since long demanded to implement the UCC.